Global firm Baker McKenzie conceded today that there were a ‘number of shortcomings’ in the way it handled a historic sexual misconduct complaint and that it ‘very much regrets’ the situation that arose.
Its review was commissioned after it emerged that a Baker McKenzie partner had sexually assaulted a female associate following an event.
The firm reportedly paid the associate a cash sum as part of a confidential settlement. The associate left the firm after the incident, which took place several years ago.
According to the firm's statement today, a special committee organised by the firm’s leaders, along with international firm Simmons & Simmons, conducted a global review to consider what measures, mechanisms and processes it should have in place to ensure complaints are dealt with to the highest standards. The committee included a group of senior partners led by Kevin Coon, chair of the policy committee, and Constanze Ulmer-Eilfort, executive committee member in charge of diversity and inclusion.
In a statement, Baker McKenzie said: ‘The review was extremely thorough and included more than three dozen face-to-face interviews as well as analysis of relevant documentation. Simmons & Simmons commented that as a firm we had been particularly open and transparent in our desire to ensure that we got to the root of the problem and to learn from our mistakes. The report concluded that there were a number of shortcomings in the way the incident was handled at that time which we very much regret.’
According to the firm, the review recognised that it has since taken 'important, positive steps’, including rolling out a firm-wide code of business conduct and independent reporting hotline. The review recommended additional initiatives, including building on the existing code and an enhanced workplace behaviour policy.
'‘None of this has been easy but it’s been a necessary period of reflection and self assessment. We are determined to learn, to ensure that these new programs are implemented consistently across the firm, and to use this moment to improve,’ A spokesperson said.
The firm said the issues identified as well as the full report are being investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, with which it is ‘cooperating fully’.